An anniversary trip with my husband Brian quickly turned into a love affair with Oprah. It began as Brian and I sat at the small rooftop bar of the Surrey Hotel in NYC, sipping drinks on a perfect summer night. The Upper East Side exuded elegance. A few well-groomed couples sat on sofas talking quietly. A familiar voice behind me made me turn and there she was…Oprah. Wearing a tangerine colored blouse, she seemed to glow. I quickly turned back to face Brian.
“Oh my God,” I said in a forced whisper, “It’s Oprah.” I took a long sip of my cranberry-flavored cocktail.
Even Brian looked impressed. “Go say hello to her or something,” he said half jokingly. I tried to take another casual glimpse. She was with three other people and seemed to be enjoying herself, talking and drinking. Having lived in Malibu for 10 years, I know there are certain rules when sighting a celebrity. Number one being, ignore them.
“Do you want another drink?” Brian asked.
I nodded. I felt dizzy and unable to speak. Why was this celebrity sighting affecting me? I had even written a book, MY MALIBU DEATH, which scoffed at our celebrity worshiping culture. Why didn’t I have a copy with me right now? Borders Books just announced they were closing. Dammit, I needed any help that I could get. And just like that, Oprah and her group disappeared into an elevator and vanished out of sight. Suddenly, the energy at the bar changed from cool and collected to ecstatic.
“Did you see her?” a fifty-something woman called out to no one in particular.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” three other women responded, including myself.
A tall redhead got up from her sofa to sit in Oprah’s seat. “It’s still warm,” she exclaimed as giddy as a child. It was like we’d just seen Santa.
Brian and I walked back to our room.
“What should we do tomorrow?” he asked.
I shrugged. All I could think about was Oprah.
I woke up the next morning having dreamt of her. Brian wanted to lounge in bed and order room service. I quickly got dressed. Maybe I would see her again. I felt recharged. We walked the city. The streets were crowded. Everyone seemed to be looking for something and I was looking for Oprah.
“No one else could have excited me as much as her,” I confessed to Brian later that night over dinner.
“Gee, thanks,” he said and laughed.
“I mean a celebrity, if that’s even what you call her,” I said. “ Not even the President would make me feel this way. I’m not religious but I imagine that this is what it feels like.”
“That’s scary,” he said.
I needed to focus on my husband. It was our 14-year anniversary. We had plenty to celebrate. A trusting, close relationship, two kind and healthy children. Why was I still so fixated on Oprah?
We finished dinner and went to see the sold out show, The Book Of Mormon, ironically about rejecting notions of religious ideals. We took our seats and there, three rows behind me…there she was! I almost fainted. Not because we had better seats than her (ha-ha) but, because she was less than ten feet away from me for the second time in twenty-four hours! Was it a sign?
If I’d had a copy of my book with me would I have give it to her? It’s women’s fiction. A dark comedy, filled with suspense and melodrama. The heroine focuses on overcoming suffering and creating an authentic life for herself. Isn’t this what Oprah taught?
When the curtain dropped, Oprah was the first one on her feet applauding the actors. They too must have felt honored to have her in the audience. I imagined her joining them backstage to offer her praise. Is this what I wanted from Oprah? For her to somehow deem my life as acceptable? I was 13 and just coming into womanhood when I first saw her show. She’d been influencing my entire grown-up life. In fact, she’d influenced my entire generation.
As we filed out of the Eugene O’Neill Theatre onto West 49th Street, the crowd was buzzing about Oprah as much as the brilliance of the musical.
“I can’t believe she was there,” I said to Brian as we hailed a taxi to meet friends for a drink.
“Maybe she’s following you,” he said.
I texted friends in LA to share my second Oprah sighting.
“ALWAYS CARRY A COPY OF YOUR BOOK!” my writer friend, Noriko scolded me in caps.
After drinks we went back to our hotel. It was almost 12:30am. Seeing Oprah for the second time had filled me with energy that I hadn’t experienced since my twenties. We stopped into the small lobby bar of our hotel for a drink. We sat in the low-lit room and there she was. The big O. A few feet away from us in a booth. Oprah and friends.
“This is ridiculous,” Brian said.
I nodded unable to speak.
“Go say something to her,” he said.
“Like what?” I replied.
“Just do it,” he said.
I waited until she got up and followed her into the empty lobby. I felt like a stalker as I made my way toward her.
Suddenly, I felt too shy to speak.
“Oprah, can my wife take a picture with you?” Brian said.
“Of course,” she said and looked at me. I felt like I was in a bright spotlight. She waved me over and put her arm around me. There was a flash from his iphone. And then it hit me. All I needed to say. “Thank you, Oprah.”
“Why didn’t you tell her about your book,” Brian said as we rode the elevator back to our room.
“I just needed to say thank you,” I said. “It sounds strange but I really meant it. Anything else felt superfluous.”
In the morning, we awoke and I knew she was gone. The city didn’t shine as bright.
Oprah, do you read ModernMom? If not, then you should. After all, you’ve influenced an entire generation of mothers, like me, everywhere. And by the way, my book, My Malibu Death is available on Amazon.com. I think you’d be proud.